Aka- How I kept my study abroad experience alive even after I returned to America.
One of the biggest changes you'll go through after studying abroad, especially a year (or more!) is that things in your hometown/home country will have changed... and you will have changed too. And, of course, you won't want to let those memories slip away, from the good to the bad ones. So, keeping my experience alive once I came back soon became, so important to me.
My major was creative writing and art, so some things were coincidentally convenient!
1. Peer mentoring and OIP/IEEC involvement
I got involved with my school's Office of Int'l Programs and IEEC(equivalent to the ISS while I was in UEA) and there I was able to continue meeting students abroad in my university and other students who'd come back from their own year/semester abroad. There's just something intimate and connecting with students who'd also returned to the US as we get back used to things over here. Peer mentoring, a requirement of the scholarship I'd done, was also really really awesome. Not only did I get to see the inner workings of the office that helped me in there, I'd also gotten to share my experiences with people who wanted to here and learn more about the program and other countries' programs. Kept my experience very much active.
2. Uses of Personal Experience
Well, this was a convenient class. As you can guess, this was a workshop focused on learning to write from your own life. Guess what was the majority of my pieces? Everything I turned in was from the UK- everything. No joke. From dorm life, to Christmas vacation, to snow, to Scotland/Wales- that was the only thing I could write about. The amazing/useful thing about this, even more, was that my experiences seriously fed more creative material! "Othering" observations just automatically turn on while you're abroad and, in fact, if you've seen one of my previous posts, I'd actually been wanting to incorporate my experiences into creative fiction. I'll probably add more to this section.
3. Conceptual Art
Yet another convenient class. For our final project, we were to do a tourism thing- and guess which place I used for traveling to? Yup- Norfolk, the county that UEA is located in. Coincidentally, my specific sites that I picked all happened to be the places I actually visited or that I took field trips to during my British Landscape class (i.e. an Iron Age hillfort, Thetford priory, Venta Icenorum, etc) The cute thing, of course, was that I included some photos of me actually being there. This was a pretty neat project because I was able to find out more about country (as well as find out the placenames of the field trips we took in the class, lol).
Anyways, for me personally, keeping the experience in my memories was really important because it really evaluations and analyzes the experience beyond just "studying abroad". And because you are almost guaranteed reverse culture shock.